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How to Make a Paper Mache Dragon

Paper Mache Dragon

Project Difficulty Level: Challenging

My first project for this new blog is a paper mache dragon, which I made in honor of my readers over at my other site, DrawFluffy.com

This dragon is made from newspaper, paste, masking tape and paint. The total cost was under $5 – an art project for the true cheapskate! Feel free to use the ideas and instructions to make your own paper mache dragon, with your own individual creative touches, of course!

Dragon, Step 1
Dragon, Step 1

Step 1:

The first step in making a small sculpture from paper mache is to create the basic form. For this project I used newspapers twisted into a general shape and then wound together with masking tape. For inspiration, I looked at the beautiful drawings of dragons in the book Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons.
Note: be sure to keep any books or other items a loooong way away from your paper mache projects – you’ll be making a big mess, and you wouldn’t want to ruin a nice book.

I create both hind legs before attaching them to the body, so I’ll know they’re both basically the same size. The legs are attached so the top (hip) is near the dragon’s backbone.

I don’t pay any attention to details, like toes, in this stage. I’m just trying to build the general shape of the dragon, and give him (her?) an interesting posture.

Dragon, Step 2
Dragon, Step 2

Step 2:

The back legs are on, and now the front legs are being attached. I include the shoulder section in the leg, and I continue to add masking tape to cover the paper. The masking tape helps make the inner form stronger.

Dragon, Step 3
Dragon, Step 3

Step 3:

Now the tail has been added, along with some spiny points along the backbone. Then the tail and hind legs are taped securely to a board.

Dragon, Step 4
Dragon, Step 4

Step 4:

The wings have been added. The wings are first made with a twist of paper in the same shape as a front leg (arm?) and attached to the body. I then cut some cardboard from a cereal box and folded it like a fan. This has been taped securely to the wing’s ‘bones’.

Adding wings to an animal that already has front legs is a real challenge, because the front legs are attached in the place where wings would go. (Wings are front legs, with feathers added). One can only hope that the final sculpture will look halfway reasonable.

Dragon, Step 5
Dragon, Step 5

Step 5:

Now for the fun, messy part. I dip each torn piece of newspaper into the flour and water paste, and then wipe off the extra paste against the side of the bowl. Then the paper is laid on the body and pressed down as smooth as possible.

This is continued until the entire dragon has been covered. I also covered the masking tape that holds the dragon to the board.

Dragon, Step 6
Dragon, Step 6

Step 6:

The weight of the wet paper will cause the form to lose it’s shape, so a paper roll props up the dragon until the first layer dries.

Once the first layer is completely dry, another layer is added, the form is propped up again, and allowed to dry again.

This sculpture will not be played with, so it only needs two layers of newsprint and paste. Once these layers have dried, the form is strong enough to stand on it’s own.

Dragon, Step 7
Dragon, Step 7

Step 7:

Now the features are added with tiny bits of paper towel dipped in paste.In this photo you can see I’ve added the mouth, eyes, nostrils, ears, and chin whiskers.

The toes have also been added, and a layer of paper town has been added to the rest of the dragon, because it produced a very nice leathery texture.

The features are left to dry, and then the entire sculpture is covered with a layer of paste, diluted with a small amount of carpenters glue. This helped to smooth out the texture and gives the dragon a smooth, slightly bumpy skin. Once the top layer of paste is dry, the dragon is covered with white primer.

Dragon, Step 8
Dragon, Step 8

Step 8:

The dragon is now painted with antique copper paint, which I purchased from the crafts section at the local Walmart. The base is painted black.

Dragon, Step 9
Dragon, Step 9

Step 9:

Using a fairly dry brush, I start to add the color to the dragon. The first layer of green has been added in this picture. Some of the copper still shows through. (I could have stopped at this point – but I’m not too excited about the bright green as a color for a large, imposing and scary creature. I thought he (she?) needed some more work.) As I continue painting, I mix some of the green with silver paint, and I add some copper, black and silver spots along the dragon’s side. I paint the eyes last.

Completed Paper Mache Dragon Sculpture
Completed Paper Mache Dragon Sculpture

The finished paper mache dragon:

After all the painting was done, and all the paint was dried, I finished the sculpture with water-based verathane mixed with a small amount of copper paint. This protects the sculpture, and the copper helped pull the colors together and made the skin patterns more subtle. The dragon is finished – now, on to my next project!

105 comments

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  • Can you please give me any tips regarding how i can make it stand fix on my shoulder or at my arm so that i dont have to hold it all the time? Thank you so much your talent is amazing and it helped me alot. Soon i will start making my own paper mache dragon.

    • You can make an armature with wood and wire, so you can keep the sculpture on the table and still work around it.

  • hi im looking to create this with my little brother for a a school project, could I make your dragon in a day??!!

    • No, paper mache takes time to dry. If you paint it before it’s dry, it will just mold and rot. I would give yourself at least a week to complete this dragon from beginning to end.

  • Hi. I was thinking about starting a year long project where im making the first generation pokemon. I was gonna make it new years goal. But before i started i wanted to see something complex and came across this. Its beautiful and i loved it. My only question is how do u defibe the eyes and such?

  • Hey there!

    Omw!! You have one of the coolest websites!!!! I loooove art and making art and just being endlessly creative! I did this weird newspaper sculpture the other day and my 1 friend told me i should cover it with flour and water and i googles the techniques and stuff and eventually ended up here!! This form of art is EXCELLANTO!!! The possibilities!!!!

    You are really a talented and creative artist! I love your stuff and thanx sooo much for making it so easy for people all over the world to learn and see how to do this!! (I’m busy doing awesome paper mache sculptures now- will post pics of it on my deviant art gellery if u wana see it!)

    Hope u become suuuper successful!!! God blesS!
    REggy (^^,)

  • Hi im only 12 and i have a school project thats coming up and i really wanted to make a taniwha out of paper mache but i dont know how can you tell me how to make one by tomorow so i can start making it

    • Hi Jade. I think the easiest way to make your creature is to draw it on cardboard first and then cut it out. Then add some crumpled paper and masking tape to the cardboard to give it a bit more form, and cover that with paper mache. It would be kind of like I made the paper mache echidna, but with a very different shape, of course.

  • I’m looking at doing this for my Senior English project. Since Beowulf has a dragon in it. I have a few questions though… 1. How long did it take for you to complete? How long did it take for layers to dry? Etc. 2. What kind of board did you attach it to? Any other helpful tips would be very very very appreciated.

    • Three layers should be plenty. It probably took three days to complete, although drying time might have taken longer. It’s been a long time since I made this dragon. I stuck it on a pine board I had sitting around. You might also want to check out the dragon I made with a different method, and with the paper mache clay instead of paper strips and paste – it’s a little faster, and easier to get the eyes and other details in. It might give you a few more ideas. You can find it here.

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